Scifi That's Actually Funny — On Purpose

Audiences have been laughing at science fiction since it was conceived, but usually for all the wrong reasons. It wasn't until television became popular that producers decided to get in on the joke and start making comedies about science fiction — and those early shows gave birth to everything from films like The Three Stooges in Orbit to countless episodes of 3rd Rock From The Sun. There have been a lot of comedy scifi misses, but check our list of hits after the jump.

  • My Favorite Martian: This series premiered in 1963 and starred Bill Bixby in his pre-Hulk days as a hapless human who takes in a Martian who crash-lands his spaceship near Los Angeles. He passes him off as his Uncle Martin, who proceeds to do wacky things with his Martian powers, much like Jeannie or Samantha would do with their magic. It's vintage 1960s-era television sitcom material and worth seeking out on DVD or watching on YouTube. Just ignore the horrible feature film version they made in 1999 with Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Daniels, and Elizabeth Hurley.


  • Spaceballs: Mel Brooks lampooned Star Wars and a slew of other science fiction films in this 1987 movie that gave us quotes like "I see your schwartz is just as big as mine" and "Prepare ship for ludicrous speed!" Once you've seen this, it's hard to picture John Candy wearing anything except a giant furry dog suit. 20 years later, it's starting to show its age just a bit, but it's still a classic.


  • Red Dwarf: This British series about the last human being in the universe and his annoying holographic shipmate was one of the best things the BBC gave us, after Doctor Who. After an accident kills everyone onboard the Red Dwarf except for technician Dave Lister, the computer keeps him in suspended animation until the radiation dies down some three million years later. The computer also brings his former bunkmate and boss Arnold Rimmer to life as a hologram to keep him company.


  • Weird Science: in 1985 Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith used science, computers, and wore bras on their heads in an effort to create the perfect woman. They end up with Kelly LeBrock, who helps them change from nerds to studs with her pseudo-magic "science powers." It's vintage John Hughes moviemaking that tried to build on the success of the previous year's Revenge of the Nerds, and succeeded. Except it gave birth to a terrible television series.

  • Mork & Mindy: This Happy Days spinoff appeared in 1978 and helped propel Robin Williams to stardom by letting him improv most of his scenes as a wacky alien from Ork. Mork reported back to his boss Orson at the end of every episode, telling him what he'd learned that day on Earth, which usually involved something happening with Mindy. They eventually got married and had Jonathan Winters as a baby. No kidding. I still have my Mork from Ork action figure, complete with egg-shaped space capsule.


  • The Ice Pirates: This 1984 movie starred Robert Urich as the heroic Jason in search of the universe's most precious commodity: water. They spoof other science fiction films while hamming it up in b-movie style. You can also catch Anjelica Huston and Ron Perlman in this thing if you don't blink.


  • Galaxy Quest: Hands down the best send-up of the Star Trek franchise and its fans. In the flick, Galaxy Quest is a canceled television show that lives on through fan conventions and autographs signings. Tim Allen parodies William Shatner excellently, but it's Tony Shalhoub steals most of the scenes he's in as the fumbling head of engineering.


  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: This show made comedy out of making fun of movies and television shows that tried to be serious. Broadcast for the Satellite of Love, lone human being Joel and his two robot friends Tom Servo and Crow offered up alternative commentary on the shows that mad scientist Dr. Forrester would beam up to them. It spawned a feature film and two new alternative movie commentary programs, Cinematic Titanic and RiffTrax, both from MST3K former cast members Joel and Mike.


  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: This series has been a radio series, a book, a television series, a computer game, a comic book, and a feature film. In it, lone Earthman Arthur Dent finds himself hitchhiking through the galaxy with a writer for The Hitchhiker's Guide after the Earth gets blown up. Although the effects aren't that stellar (thanks BBC), I actually prefer the television version to the movie. If that means I have to turn in my offical geek card, so be it.